CHAPTER 21: "VICTIM OF THE DEADLY
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
It was a glorious night; both moons shone upon the silent plain, giving
the Marscape a haunting golden tinge, broken by deep blue shadows. For
more than three days they had trudged constantly northward alongside their
great beast. The giant thoats of the green men are wild, unruly things
which spend their lives bounding over the vast surface of the red planet.
The thoat that carried the rigid body of Dejah Thoris chafed under the
two controlling beings who forced it into the slow, slogging trek; the
dull-witted beast could not know that the fragile burden it carried upon
its broad back was the incomparable Princess of Helium.
My sword cannot help her now," said the man. "Yet I'd gladly die to
see her breathe again."
"Patience, Earthman," advised Sola. "I think it may be possible. Since
we left Go-La-Ra I have felt stirrings among my thoughts. I believe it
is the faint telepathy of our friend Dejah Thoris. I am convinced that
her life spark has not gone out, John Carter. Soon we shall reach the forbidden
Plateau of Eo. There perhaps we will find a remedy to her misfortune."
"The very plateau you speak of, Sola, now stands before us. Already
the ground grows rough and we tread a beaten path. You have said very little
about this secret place, or why it is 'forbidden' or what we shall encounter
there. I must know what dangers we face this night -- and what hope of
yours has brought us to this lonely place."
The girl hesitated, as if struggling with an inner voice that held her
back. Then she answered.
"Dotar Sojat, most that I know of this place comes from Tars Tarkas'
woman, Sarkoja, and she has told me very little. It is a place very rarely
visited, and only then by a small number of our women. And," Sola added,
"never seen by our men, except from great distances. It called the 'forbidden
mountain' in the idiom of Thark; the Thurd and Warhoon people call it 'Eo.'"
"Listen, Dotar Sojat, and I will tell you what I can. As you know, the
green women make the guns and ammunition for our warriors. But, in all
your travels through our country did you see one place where the metals
are mined, or the raw materials turned into gun parts, or the complicated
sighting devices assembled and calibrated? No, you did not; for we have
no such factories and shops. Some useful things we find in the ruins, or
capture from the red race, or trade for with their gun runners. However,
it is our accurate radium rifles that they come to trade their ammunition
and pistols for in these secret dealings. We and other green people assemble
the long guns, but we do not make the components. Do you understand?"
John Carter admitted that he had never given the matter much thought,
but he had seen unexplained evidence of an advanced technology among the
green race. The women held such things secret, however, and he had no inkling
as to their source.
Sola said, that for untold centuries, the green women of the southern
hordes had come to the "forbidden mountain" to trade for gun parts, medicines
and certain other things that they were unable to produce for themselves.
The inhabitants of Eo had once furnished them with all manner of trade
goods and knowledge, in return for the radium the green scavengers gathered
from the ruined cities. Over the past few centuries, however, the trade
had dwindled to a trickle. The Wizards of Eo, who had once watched over
and protected the green Martians, now seemed no longer to care about them.
Still, for them nothing was impossible. And to them the green females came
to find cures for life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
As they neared the ascent to the plateau John Carter noticed a durkoos
circling overhead in the moons' light. He had seen the bird for the past
two days. It was much smaller than the monster he had encountered in Go-La-Ra
and it behaved much differently. It appeared to be following them and watching
them. But, as it presented no immediate danger, the Earthman gave it little
"Dotar Sojat," the girl asked, "how is your arm now?"
"Cold -- it feels cold. And the flesh at the edge of the calcified portion
has turned blue. I have seen gangrene take the limbs of many soldiers in
my time. I fear I may lose my sword arm if these wizards you speak of do
not treat it soon. That would be a cruel fate for a fighting man like myself!"
Meanwhile, not far away, two figures bent over a viewing screen and
watched events as they unfolded at the base of the forbidden mesa. The
televising apparatus was located at the top of a high metal tower on the
plateau and one of those watching the video images was himself made of
the same shining element. As the two strange beings watched, they saw a
green woman and a smaller white man unload a statue-like body from the
back of their thoat.
"Do you have the sound transmission ready, yet?" asked the smaller of
the two figures.
"No, Master Vovo," replied the metal man, "the microphone in the mechanical
bird cannot pick up their voices from such a distance. I will cause it
to land near them so it can hear their words."
"Don't bother, Oman, we will go out to meet them. Get the flying device
from the stables and meet me at the window landing. Bring your sword and
pistol. There may be trouble with the man."
All of these commands the Wizard of Eo spoke softly into a mouthpiece,
mounted below his thick green chin. Oman, the mechanical man, hastened
to obey his master's transmitted commands, leaving Vovo alone at the view-screen.
The wizard saw John Carter kneel before the stricken girl and exchange
words with the green girl. Both wore the metal of Thark, a nation he knew
well -- and from more than just their infrequent trading with him. Vovo
could well guess what the strangers were discussing; his remote video camera
had observed their progress all the way from Go-La-Ra.
"What do we do now?" questioned the Earthman.
"I do not know. Perhaps the women of my race trade their radium here
at the base of the mountain; or perhaps they ascend it by this narrow trail
on foot and carry out the exchange somewhere above. No one has ever told
me how it is done. But it will be difficult for us to carry Dejah Thoris
up the steep and winding path. Her body is frail now and a single hard
jolt might fracture an arm or a leg. Perhaps you could follow the trail,
while I remain here with her and our thoat"
As John Carter pondered what to do next, he noticed that the odd durkoos
that had been accompanying them was gone from the sky overhead. He wondered
if the bird might be a tamed pet, gone off now to warn its owner of trespassers
upon the trail to mysterious Eo.
Oman brought the "flying device" up to Vovo's window. It was the most
outlandish flyer ever seen on Mars, a mechanical contrivance having the
appearance a large thoat. Nowhere were propellers, flaps or buoyancy tanks
to be seen. It appeared to operate by magic rather than by science. The
two bizarre figures, one a misshapen green dwarf and the other a gleaming
metal robot, mounted their flying thing and departed the silver tower.
So it was that Vovo, last Wizard of Eo, and Oman the odwar of the mechanical
men, rode forth to intercept the strangers.